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North Division Title Clinched as Softball Takes Two From Brown, 2-1 (10), 2-1

Laura Ricciardone earned her 11th win of the season in Game 2 against Brown Friday (Harvard Athletic Communications).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –
The Harvard softball team collected a pair of one-run victories against Brown, needing extra innings to secure Game 1, Friday in an Ivy League North Division doubleheader. Jane Alexander blasted a walk-off solo home run to lead off the 10th inning in a 2-1 Game 1 win and the Crimson collected another 2-1 victory in Game 2.

With the wins, Harvard improves to 26-11 on the year and 13-1 in Ivy League play. The Crimson also clinched its fifth North Division Title, and third straight, earning it a berth in the Ivy League Championship Series against the South Division Champion. Harvard has captured five of the six divisional crowns since the divisions were formed in 2007.  

The Bears made a statement early in Game 1 when Stephanie Thompson turned on a Rachel Brown offering, pounding a solo home run over the centerfield fence to stake the guests to a 1-0 lead. Harvard threatened in the bottom of the third thanks to back-to-back singles from Allison Scott and Whitney Shaw, but Brown hurler Jessica Cherness escaped the jam on a groundout to first. Rachel Brown went into lockdown mode, and did not allow another hit to the Bears the rest of the game, but the Crimson offense continued to struggle.

After stranding a pair of runners in the bottom of the fifth, Harvard finally knotted the score in the next inning. Katherine Lantz drew a walk and pinch runner Eve Rosenbaum advanced to second on a double steal that saw Camilla Gibson cut down at third. Scott came up big, connecting on a single that scooted up the middle and plated Rosenbaum from second to tie the score.

Rachel Brown continued to silence the opposing bats into extra innings, but the Crimson managed just one hit between the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. With the top of the order due up in the bottom of the tenth, Jane Alexander took matters into her own hands and belted a solo shot over the centerfield fence, ending the game, 2-1, on a walk-off effort. Brown allowed just one hit in 10 innings of work, striking out 14 in the complete-game showing. Scott was the lone player to record multiple hits in the contest.

A handful of Brown miscues helped Harvard plate a run in the bottom of the first in Game 2. Kasey Lange reached on a single with two outs, advanced to second on a passed ball and onto third when a heads-up Harvard appeal saw Stephanie Regan reach on an infield error. A few pitches later, Lange came across, thanks to the second passed ball of the inning. In the third, Alexander singled to lead off the inning and came home on a towering two-out double to left center by Regan, who was cut down trying to stretch the hit to a triple.

Laura Ricciardone was firmly in control in the circle for Harvard, holding the Bears to just one hit through five innings. The guests made some noise in the top of the sixth when a leadoff double by Thompson, a single by Jen Kries and a sacrifice bunt  gave Brown runners on second and third with one out. Misa Wong brought in Brown's only run with a single to the shortstop, but a groundout allowed Ricciardone to escape the frame. The groundouts in the top of the seventh snuffed out a Trisha Melvin double and the Crimson clinched its second 2-1 win of the day.

The Crimson collected just four hits in the game, but a strong performance from Ricciardone led to the victory. The sophomore collected four strikeouts in the complete game win, upping her record on the season to 11-6.

Harvard is back in action tomorrow as it takes on the Bears in another Ivy North Division twinbill. Game 1 will begin at 12:30 p.m. The Crimson will also be celebrating Friends of Jaclyn Day at Soldiers Field, and will honor its five seniors in a ceremony before Game 2.